National Organization For Women – Letter from Pres. Betty Friedan, Jan. 15, 1968

TO: All members of NOW

FROM: Betty Friedan, President

DATE: January 15, 1968

For your information, and to guide your action in 1968 as a member of NOW the enclosed documents constitute the basic reports and policy positions adopted by the Second National Conference of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Washington, D.C., November 18/19, 1967.

Of the total NOW membership of 1,122, the conference was attended by 105 women and men from California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The conference opened with the report of the president (Document I), detailing the progress of NOW in its first year of existence and proposing a Bill of Rights for Women in 1968 to be presented to all political parties and candidates as a touchstone for the coming election year.

The first article of NOW’s Bill of Rights for Women in 1968 is the long-delayed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. After a special all-conference discussion, the following resolution presented by the National Capital Area chapter of NOW was approved by a vote of 82 for, 3 against, with 12 abstentions:

“WHEREAS the National Organization for Women (NOW) is incorporated for the purpose of taking action to achieve equal rights and responsibilities in all aspects of citizenship, public service, employment, education, and family life; and

WHEREAS NOW is actively assisting women workers in seeking to invoke the protection of the United States Constitution to strike down statutes and official practices which deprive women of equal job opportunities; and

WHEREAS other classes of persons have been adjudged full recognition by the courts of complete equality without class distinction; and

WHEREAS the Equal Rights Amendment would unequivocally secure the right to equal treatment under the law without differentiation based on sex; and

WHEREAS opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment in the past was principally based on the presumed need for special “protective” labor legislation for women, the basis for which opposition Congress has removed by the enactment of the equal opportunity provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and

WHEREAS there are now pending in Congress various joint resolutions, such as S.J. Res.54 and H.J. Res.52, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to provide that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT NOW urge the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to immediately report favorably on the Equal Rights Amendment and call upon the Ninetieth Congress to approve this amendment, without qualification, for submission to the States for ratification.”

Articles 2 through 6 of the Bill of Rights (see Document I, page 5) were approved at appropriate points by vote of the conference. Article 7 was approved with slightly different wording, following the second all-conference discussion on the question of abortion. By a vote of 57 for, 14 against, the conference approved the following resolution:

“NOW endorses the principle that it is a basic right of every woman to control her reproductive life, and therefore NOW supports the furthering of the sexual revolution of our century by pressing for widespread sex education, provision of birth control information and contraceptives, and urges that all laws penalizing abortion be repealed.”

The position paper on which the all-conference discussion of the equal Rights Amendment was based was mailed to all members of NOW with the call to the national conference. The key section of the lengthy position paper on which the abortion discussion was based is included here as Document II. The other sections of the NOW position paper on abortion will be sent to chapter conveners and can also be obtained by writing to national headquarters. Copies of the entire NOW Bill of Rights for Women in 1968 will shortly be printed in final form and will be available in bulk to carry out the following resolution also adopted by the conference:

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT the national officers be directed to implement the Bill of Rights for Women in 1968 by urging support by appropriate officials of the executive and legislative branches of Government and other organization specifically the President of the United States and members of Congress and the State Commissions on the Status of women, and by the Republican and Democratic parties by inclusion in their party platforms.”

Document III details legal procedures to be used in job discrimination ease a blank to be used by individual victims of job discrimination or by NOW chapters aiding such victims, and certain economic facts about job discrimination as presented- and discussed at the Training Session on Fighting Job Discrimination which was conducted by the NOW Legal Committee and Aileen Hernandez NOW Vice President-East, formerly a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The report of the Legal Committee was dramatized by the appearance before the conference of three victims of job discrimination, Georgiana Sellers, Anna Casey and Lena Moore, who were denied higher paying jobs with the Colgate Palmolive company in Indiana because of new weight limit restrictions imposed on women workers. With long-distance guidance from NOW’s Legal Committee, these women were able to act as their own lawyers in appealing pernicious court decisions on job discrimination which threatened to nullify Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as far as women are concerned. The conference urged the utmost haste in setting up and raising money for the tax exempt NOW Legal Defense and Educational Fund to help fight the increasing number of such cases seeking help from NOW. A major resolution later voted by the conference reads as follows:

WHEREAS NOW is vitally concerned with the existing and continuing disadvantages to working women raising out of state protective laws applicable only to women,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that chapters of NOW in states having protective labor laws applicable only to women, on a priority basis, seek to: (l) amend these laws to include men under those protections which establish fair labor standards, and (2) repeal those laws which raise barriers to employment based on sex.

Document IV comprises the reports of the NOW Task Forces on the Family, Discrimination in Education, Equal Employment Opportunity, Political Rights and Responsibilities, Women in Religion, Women in Poverty, and the Image of Women, as well as the report of the NOW Campus Coordinating Committee. Each one of the reports was approved by the conference, with separate votes also taken on the specific action resolutions recommended for NOW priority in 1968.

Every member of NOW is urged to read carefully all of these documents, for they comprise in total the national policy of NOW for 1968, implementing our Statement of Purpose in terms of the most urgent needs for our action during the crucial year ahead. Not every member or chapter of NOW will be equally interested in every aspect of our national program. Every chapter and member of NOW is urged to be creative in proposing and carrying out actions that will be most effective achieving any or all parts of this program in accordance with your own local situation. On the issues of our greatest national priority we shall continue to devise concerted national demonstrations, as we did most successfully in our National Day of Demonstration, December 14, 1967, against EEOC laxity in the matter of sex- segregated Help Wanted ads. This day of demonstration, which was voted as one of the final acts of the national conference, saw concerted activity of NOW members in New York, Washington, Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago, joined by Milwaukee, Madison, Indiana and Iowa. On some issues, not the same kind of action may be appropriate in every state, For instance, NOW members in New York, where Governor Rockefeller has called for immediate reform of the abortion laws, may wish to take action on the abortion question which members in some other states where this has not even been publicly discussed might not consider appropriate at this time. In such states NOW members are urged first to educate themselves, in order to begin educating the public, by studying NOW position papers on the policy adopted by NOW, which is the first public expression of the voice of women, as well as men, on this. NOW’s stand, as set forth in the enclosed position papers, is not the same so-called “abortion reform” position, and in fact is a new position in the United States.

Document V consists of the press release issued at the press conference held Monday morning in Washington following the close of the national conference, and the report of the NOW Public Relations Committee. Local chapters or NOW leaders might use some local action endorsing this program or pinpointing a local target for it, as a lead in issuing this same press release to your own newspapers, radio, and TV. You will find in the press release a list of the officers and board members elected for the coming year.

Dedicated as we are to action and not just words in NOW, many of those attending the conference stayed over in Washington to go to Capitol Hill on Monday to present our Bill of Rights for women in 1968, and our sentiments about the failure of the Administration to adequately enforce the sex discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act, to John Macy, who met with us on behalf of President Johnson and to the offices of Senators Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, Charles Percy, and our own Senators and Congressmen. Now it is up to every member and chapter of NOW to act to bring our Bill of Rights for Women in 1968 to the attention of local political representatives and Candidates as well as to your representatives in Washington, and to devise new ways of exposing and combating sex discrimination in employment, education, the political parties, churches, and mass media. In a year when women will represent at least 51% of the vote, we can, if we begin to act now, direct major national attention to our unfinished revolution of full equality for women in truly equal partnership with men.

Finally, the Financial Report of the Secretary/Treasurer, indicates that although we have over 1,100 members of NOW our bank balance at the end of 1967 was only $1,062.35 and that, with this mailing, will be close to the vanishing point. In order to implement the goals we have agreed upon for 1968, it is urgently necessary that every member use the enclosed envelope to pay their dues and make any further contribution possible.

Happy New Year for NOW!

Betty Friedan

President

National Organization for Women